Turks find importance in long-term relationships



Written by Katie Russell

Senior Alper Karakas and junior Sitara Simons, both of Turkish descent, consider their relationships with others from Turkey to be as close as family.

Karakas and his cousin in Eyup, Istanbul.

Karakas, whose parents hail from Istanbul and Kastamonu (both in Turkey), considers Turkish culture to have had a strong influence on his life and relationships. “In the Bay Area, people are very diverse and come from a lot of different backgrounds, so there are a lot of things to learn about other people and their cultures,” Karakas said. “In Turkey, though, everyone’s similar, which makes people closer and kind of like family. Even if I’m not related to someone, I feel very close to everyone.”

Junior Sitara Simons and her family at a concert.

Simons, however, comes from a different background; her mother is from Turkey, but her father is American. Due to her own experiences, she sees comparisons between how relationships differ between her Turkish and American sides. “Here, I feel like my friends come and go,” Simons said. “In Turkish culture, though, long-term relationships and friendships are much more important.”

Karakas cites the affectionate aspects of Turkish culture as major influences on his approach to friendships at home. “I definitely feel like I am the person who tries to make it a more sensitive and emotional environment,” he said. “I care about my friends’ happiness, and I’m a bit warmer than other people.”

Simons has also noticed that some aspects of Turkish culture have become a part of her own personality. “In Turkey, people tell you how it is. If something isn’t nice or doesn’t look good, people are going to tell you the truth,” Simons said. “I think I take a little of that with me here, and sometimes it’s taken as me being rude, but it’s definitely a cultural difference that has a lot of positive effects but also some downsides.”

Similarly, Karakas considers Turkish people in general to be more open than Americans. “If I were standing at a bus stop and some guy came up to me here in Palo Alto, it wouldn’t be very natural for us to just start talking,” Karakas said. “But in Turkey you would just start a conversation about anything, and you immediately feel like you know each other.”

This open environment contrasts with Karakas’ own experiences in Palo Alto. “Here you see that it takes so much energy for people to open up to someone, because they don’t feel comfortable,” Karakas said. “In Turkey, though, people feel more connected and more like a family, so it’s easier to be able to open up.”

Simons agreed that interpersonal connections are very strong. “In Turkey, people check in on each other all the time,” Simons said. “Even if they haven’t seen each in other in years, they’ll call each other often. They’re very warm, and they genuinely care about each other even if they barely know each other.”Karakas views his place in both American and Turkish cultures as very beneficial. “A lot of people who have grown up here and their whole families have grown up here don’t have that global perspective on their relationships. The bubble is a lot more apparent in their lives,” Karakas said. “My parents didn’t come from much in Turkey, so I see how my grandparents raised my parents, and how that compares to my life here, and what a huge difference there is from Palo Alto to Istanbul.”